The University of Essex’s geodesic dome roof

“If you’re going to make a building complicated, this is it.” That’s how Derek Foster, contracts manager at U.K. construction company Morgan Sindall, summarizes the Essex Business School, a three-story timber-framed building designed by the London office of BDP under the direction of former chairman Tony McGuirk. The 59,200-square-foot, 590-foot-long academic building curves both in plan and in section and molds into a hillside with a 30-foot drop located at the edge of the University of Essex’s campus in Colchester, England.

Realizing the structure was challenging both “geometrically and logistically,” Foster says. “There wasn’t a right angle in the place.” Its crescent shape and distinctive “roundels”—circular lecture halls clad with traditional lime render that pop out of the building mass—emerged from a rigorous site analysis that examined solar exposure and wind patterns, among other things.

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